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How to Wrap Exterior Trim on a Vehicle


Whether you’re looking to chrome delete, or just switch up the color of your trim, doing your own vinyl wrapping is doable with a bit of patience and a lot of attention to detail.

Popular areas to wrap:

  • Window trim
  • Grille
  • Roof bars
  • Door handles
  • Badge or emblem
  • Exhaust outlets (never the exhaust itself)
  • Bumper inserts
Heat gun, wrap gloves, squeegees, felt, and a utility knife
Heat gun, wrap gloves, squeegees, felt, and a utility knife


  • Automotive vinyl of your choice
  • Utility blades
  • Heat gun
  • Felt squeegee
  • Wrap gloves
  • Masking tape
  • Isopropyl alcohol or similar solvent

The Step-by-Step Process

Measure and cut out each piece

Measure and cut out each piece

Once you’ve identified how many pieces of trim you want to wrap, jot down each piece and the rough overall footprint of how much vinyl will be required to cover it. Never measure exactly, as wiggle room will be important when it comes to probably contouring at the time of the application. Don’t worry about having excess material, in fact it’s preferred. That will get trimmed once the vinyl is properly installed.

Cut out each piece and mark the backside with which car piece it goes with, taking care to note left or right (or driver/passenger side). That way, you won’t have any trouble matching up the vinyl to the trim when it’s time to get to work.

Clean and prep the area of application

Clean and prep the area of application

The goal is to get the trim as clean as possible so the vinyl will stick better and last longer. Use isopropyl alcohol or a similar solvent to remove dirt, dust, debris, and more importantly, oily fluids or stains as they will prevent proper adhesion.

Applying masking tape to the surrounding areas of the vehicle outside of where you’re wrapping will not only help you identify where you’re applying the vinyl, it will prevent the excess vinyl from sticking to those areas unnecessarily. It’s also especially helpful if you’re doing multiple areas, as it allows you to see a glance where you still need to work.

Position and pull the backing

With your clean, taped-off area ready to go, double-check that you have the correct vinyl piece for the trim you’re working on and start by peeling back one corner of your wrap. With the vinyl overlaid on the area, press down the exposed corner and deftly pull the backing off as you apply slight pressure to get the vinyl to adhere to the car as you go.

Although it’s a bit of a learned skill, doing it this way will reduce the chances of accidentally adhering the whole strip at once, and therefore give you more control over positioning.

By applying tension as you pull the backing off, the vinyl will contour the trim without wrinkling. If your working environment is cold, applying a heat gun to make the vinyl suppler and workable is a trick used by professionals to ensure smooth application.

If you do make a mistake in positioning, or you’re off by just a little bit, one of the great properties of automotive vinyl is that it can be pulled up and repositioned even after it’s been laid down.

Smooth each section into place

Smooth each section into place

Once in place, the finishing steps begin. Once the trim has full vinyl coverage without lumps or bumps, use a squeegee or hand applicator to push the edges of the section down behind the surrounding rubber or felt. This creates a seamless look akin to paint and helps the vinyl maintain that slight tension.

Wrap gloves are a great tool for your arsenal when it comes to wrapping exterior trim, because they allow you to use your fingers to smooth down contoured edges in a more precise way. It’s a smart way to leverage your soft, sensitive fingers in lieu of other tools that are not as precise or responsive when working in smaller areas.

Trim the excess vinyl

Trim the excess vinyl

Lastly, for that fully finished look, use a thin utility blade to gently trim the excess vinyl. Leave just enough to tuck away for the seamless appearance, which you can do with your hand applicator for a gorgeous picture-perfect finish.

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